I’ve been pondering: why is it that this time of year is so busy? Okay so it’s the end of school and that comes with its events and a round of thank yous. Yes, there’s Christmas shopping to do and holiday preparations to make. And yes, if you’re working, you have to get things in order before you break. But really, it needn’t be more than that. Yet we are tired. Exhausted. Overwhelmed. Depressed.
Just this week a man I know said he always gets a little down at this time of year.
Now, more than ever, I call for perspective.
- We’re down because we’re another year older; we’re another year fuller of experience and wisdom.
- We’re down because we didn’t achieve enough this year; we, simply what we embody – our goodness, kindness, love and presence – are enough.
- We’re down because we’re not where we want to be; yet at our very core is the most peaceful of places.
Now, more than ever, I call for permission to put yourself first.
Christmas is the time for giving but that should not be at the exclusion of, or detriment to yourself.
One of the biggest things we give at this time of year, is ourselves; our time and energy to all the events, invitations, expectations – not only those of other people but the expectations we put on ourselves. For some reason, we seem to perceive Christmas as a deadline: “I must do this before Christmas”… “We must catchup before Christmas”…. Yet Boxing Day will come, as surely as Christmas Day will pass. The New Year will come, and with it 365 more days – plenty of time to do, to see, to have and to hold, to be.
I’m no Saint. I tend to fall into this Christmas deadline trap too. But this year, with my book behind me and taking my own advice, I’ve felt no guilt whatsoever in cancelling plans when my calendar got too full. I cancelled a yoga class at my house that I’d promised my friends. Tellingly, for one of those friends, it opened up a pathway to permission: she cancelled a subsequent session the following week. We laughed about it, sent each other love, and both had early nights. I considered getting a babysitter for two very cool-sounding events, then stopped and checked in with myself, realised it was too much, and gracefully declined. The organiser herself said she was drowning in events too.
Why are we drowning from rips in life that pull us silently, sneakily to depths we can’t manage, currents we can’t conquer? Why aren’t we floating, buoyant, bobbing happily, freely along a gentle current of life?
A question to ask ourselves in this silly season, is: Whose diary are you running? Whose life is this? So much of the overwhelm people feel at this time of year is caused by a feeling of ‘I should’ – “I’ve been invited to so-and-so’s Christmas function, I really should go”… “Everyone else seems to be doing homemade gifts for the teachers, perhaps I should too”… Sound familiar? If it does, then here’s a neat little phrase you might like:
Repeat that phrase to yourself. Let it settle into and echo within the depths of your mind. Let it resonate in your body until you know it for the truth it is: Shoulds are other people’s wants.
The only things you should do are the things you need to for you and your family to survive and grow, and things YOU want to. Feel no guilt measuring yourself against these yardsticks, as you’re being true to yourself, your family, your situation. You’re demonstrating self-respect and communicating your worth – not in an egotistical way, mind, but if we don’t value ourselves and value our time, others won’t value it either.
To say no to someone else is to say yes to you.
Amid a storm of Christmassy events, we can be free and we can be rich in time, if we ease up on expectations, both those others have of us and those we put on ourselves. All those events and invitations? Receive them with thanks, feel honoured but not obliged to accept. Give yourself the gift this Christmas of self-care. Instead of tired, exhaused, overwhelmed, depressed; you, me, we all can be rested, invigorated, inspired and happy – it’s simply a matter of perspective and priorities.
YOU are a priority. Look after yourself. You have my permission for starters.
Merry Christmas, much love, Tui xx